The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is an all-new, five-passenger, compact crossover SUV. Borrowing its name and some styling cues from the upcoming larger Bronco (offered in two- and four-door bodystyles), the four-door Bronco Sport is ready to play in the dirt and work on the pavement as a contender in a wider, highly competitive segment. Pricing for the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport starts around $26,000.
Bronco Sport has a modern retro exterior design, a boxy look that would easily fit in the Land Rover portfolio. In off-road style, it has its wheels pushed out to the corners to maximize approach and departure angles. Its tall fender wells and body sides are tucked in for trail driving, with few unnecessary protrusions to catch brush. The front and rear elevations echo the Bronco’s styling. The grille boasts “BRONCO” in big white letters. So does the tailgate, with a smaller “SPORT” mounted shyly below, and the Ford blue oval badge tastefully subordinate. Big wheels, 17-inch or 18-inch depending on trim, look great on Bronco Sport, especially when fitted with beefy all-terrain tires in off-road-focused models.
Unlike Bronco, the Bronco Sport shares a platform with an existing Ford model, the Escape compact crossover. Many mechanical and layout features of Bronco Sport are from Escape, but you wouldn’t guess it to look at them side-by-side.
The Bronco Sport interior is tastefully rugged, with an uncluttered design that avoids overstatement. A unique shape repeats for the HVAC vents, lending a sense of unity to the cabin. The center stack has several convenient open storage cubbies, and is crowned by an eight-inch infotainment screen in exactly the right place. A rotary gear selector lives in the center console, along with two cupholders. There’s a predictable step-up from model to model in interior trim, from cloth seats to leather-trimmed heated sport-contour bucket seats, and a smart step from rubberized cargo floor and second-row seat protector to carpeted floor mats to rubberized flooring, all with a purpose.
Technology-wise, Bronco Sport is anything but retro, featuring the latest available versions of Ford’s infotainment systems, including eight-inch touchscreen monitors with SYNC 3, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and available Ford+Alexa capability. FordConnect with 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot is standard. The base audio system is an AM/FM stereo with six speakers. A Bang & Olufsen sound system is available ($1,595 – $2,595 as part of a package), as is a 360-degree camera with split view and a washer (great for off-road use).
The cargo space is tall enough to hold two 27.5-inch wheel mountain bikes. The roof is rated to hold up to 150 lbs (100 with moonroof). The cargo hold reveals additional smart thinking. The smallish rear glass redeems itself by flipping up, a lost art. An optional cargo management package adds a slide-out work table, a 400-watt inverter, and liftgate floodlamps. The front cabin’s storage compartments, including big door pockets, multiple cubbies, and covered storage, are ideal for sorting gadgets and tools.
If you can’t fit all the junk inside or on top of your Bronco, the 2.0-liter will tow up to 2,200 lbs and the 1.5-liter can drag up to 2,000 lbs.
Bronco Sport gets two engine choices, tied to trim levels. A 1.5-liter EcoBoost turbocharged three-cylinder gasoline direct-injection engine (181 hp/ 190 lb-ft of torque) will be fitted in Base, Big Bend, and Outer Banks trim models. A 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline direct-injection unit (245 hp /275 lb-ft of torque) will come in the Badlands and First Edition models. First Edition is a launch run, with production limited to 2,000 vehicles for the 2021 model year.
All Bronco Sport models will feature an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, along with a terrain management system with up to seven available G.O.A.T. modes (Go Over Any Type of Terrain). The G.O.A.T. modes reveals an impressive level of tech contained in the terrain management system on the Bronco Sport, with drive modes to set the appropriate steering, transmission, and throttle response settings for the driver-selected condition (Suspension settings are not electronically adjustable on the Bronco Sport).
Bronco Sport with the 1.5-liter engine gets ratings of 25 mpg city/28 mpg highway/26 mpg combined, while the 2.0-liter engine models sport a rating of 21 mpg city/26 mpg highway/23 mpg combined.
Ford set up a media drive at a Holly Oaks ORV Park, a new public facility in Holly, Michigan. We had a chance to drive several variants of the Bronco Sport on groomed trails and designed obstacles, as well as on public roads in the area. Bronco Sport was a pleasant surprise off-road, where its short wheelbase (105.1 inches), four-wheel independent suspension (MacPherson struts front/double lateral link rear with stabilizer bars at each end), generous suspension travel (7.4 inches front/8.1 inches rear), and decent ground clearance (7.8 – 8.8 inches, depending on tire and wheel size) made for drama-free crawls around the ORV park. The available trail control technology adds additional help in off-roading, enabling a cruise-control-like feature that operates at up to 20 mph forward and 6 mph in reverse, allowing the driver to concentrate on steering and navigating the trail.
Though Bronco Sport is being marketed to adventurous souls, most examples will probably spend the vast majority of their lives on pavement, doing duty as commuters, family haulers, and all-around vehicles. As such, the crossover has good manners. The 2.0-liter engine in the Badlands and First Edition seems better mated to the Bronco Sport’s character, as the 1.5-liter can sound a little strained and thrashy when pressed hard.
A couple of minor complaints about the driving position involve outward visibility. When on-road, taller drivers may find it challenging to see past the roof overhang to spot traffic lights, especially when the Bronco Sport is first in line. When off-road, we wished for a taller seating position for a better view of the trail ahead, which is somewhat obscured by the bulges in the hood. Like all ergonomic observations, the only way to find out how well you’ll fit is to sit in the vehicle yourself.
For its launch year, the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport will be produced in five trim levels:
- Base (starting around $26,000) — Still well-equipped with the 1.5-liter engine and all-wheel drive.
- Big Bend (starting around $28,000) — Adds rubberized cargo and floor mats, easy-to-clean cloth seats, and other details to make it more “adventure-ready.”
- Outer Banks (starting around $32,000) — The showboat, with 18-inch wheels, black roof, leather seats, and more.
- Badlands (starting around $33,000) — The big upgrade here is to the 2.0-liter engine, off-road suspension, trail control, and two additional G.O.A.T. modes.
- First Edition (starting around $38,000) — The ultimate Bronco Sport, with all of the Badlands’ equipment and more. Limited to just 2,000 copies.
If you are looking for a more accurate idea of pricing, you can build and price a Bronco Sport on Ford’s official web site.
Even though Bronco Sport is a great-looking new crossover, its best features are its all-around utility, especially in cargo capacity and management. Trail bikes have gone from being $200 items you didn’t mind strapping to a rack on the back of your SUV to expensive, bespoke titanium treasures you need to guard carefully between rides, so room to transport two bikes safely is great in a small crossover. Throughout the cabin, there are clever cargo management solutions everyone will appreciate.
We’d have to start with the Badlands model, if only for the 2.0-liter engine. The First Edition is tempting, but seems like overkill in this class, and despite its limited production run, is unlikely to become an appreciating collector’s item.
Ford made the admirable decision to include the Ford Co-Pilot360 suite of driver-assist technologies on all trim levels of Bronco Sport, and available Co-Pilot360 Assist 2.0 is also welcome, as it adds radar cruise control, lane-centering, and Speed Sign Recognition.
With standard 4×4, decent fuel economy, impressive cargo handling, and attractive retro styling, Bronco Sport would be good for a wide range of buyers. The active set will appreciate Bronco Sport’s ability to get them to the trailhead; the rest of us will smile when loading that big screen television in the cargo hold during the dead of winter.
With the upcoming bigger Bronco stealing most of the spotlight, it would have been easy for Ford to misstep with its smaller sibling… but the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is capable. It’s a cool little crossover SUV with enough off-road chops for adventure, and enough utility and class for general use. If you’ve been considering a Jeep Compass or Cherokee to get some dirt road prowess, take a look at Bronco Sport before you pull the trigger.
- Ford Escape
- Jeep Cherokee
- Jeep Compass
- Land Rover Discovery Sport
- Subaru Crosstrek
- Toyota RAV4